Site questions

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Now that you’ve all had a bit of time to live with the site redesign, how do you like it? Is it better or worse than the old design?

I’ve made a few small changes over the last few weeks that you may not have even noticed. One is that instead of emphasizing the dates on the posts, I’m emphasizing the titles instead. Another is that the Google Ads have been moved up in the sidebar. While I liked where they were visually at the bottom, the click-through rate suffered big time. I’ve also been beefing up the resources section a bit.

I wanted to get readers’ thoughts on one thing, though: do you like the way I’m doing the links as a sideblog, or would you prefer to see them grouped together daily as part of the main blog (see Jeffrey Veen’s site for an example of this in action)? One advantage of making it part of the main blog is that it would allow comments. The disadvantage (which may not actually be one) is that the sideblog links would no longer be part of every page.

Let me know what you think in the comments. And feel free to throw any other site-related criticism in there as well.

Nell Newman

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Nell On Earth: An interview with Nell Newman, creator of Newman’s Own Organics

An enlightening interview on Grist.com about the business of organics, but what’s up with her answer to “are you vegetarian?”:

I was a vegetarian for three years as a kid. Now I am a “flexitarian.” My friends say it’s a PC name for hypocrite. I eat a little bit of everything. Ninety percent of what I eat is organic, and any meat I buy is organic, but when I go out to dinner, I don’t always investigate the ingredients. I don’t say no when I go to a friend’s for dinner and they’ve prepared a non-organic meal.

Isn’t she answering two totally separate questions there?

That aside, Nell’s got some interesting things to say about big business/mainstream organics:

Oh, it’s good that someone’s mainstreaming this industry. Adopting big-business practices is one thing, and adopting agribusiness practices that would dilute the meaning of organic is another. On the whole, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of preserving the integrity of organic foods.

As for business practices, you have to be realistic. Even running a small organics company, I’ve got constraints. I would love to not have to ship anything and use nasty packaging, but you know what, that’s not a reality. You want to do everything regionally, and just support local small farmers regionally, and then you find out there are no good pretzel manufacturers anywhere on the West Coast, so you have to make your pretzels on the East Coast and ship them. So you do as best you can, but most of the time, it’s difficult to have those high ideals and stick to them, in terms of how you produce stuff. People would love us to put our pretzels in wax paper, but would they really like it when they bought a stale pretzel? It’s a very difficult balance.

Restaurant Review: Red Bamboo

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Red Bamboo
140 W 4th St / New York, NY
Asian/Soul Food fusion (vegetarian, mostly vegan)

Seriously… “Asian/Soul Food Fusion?” But let me tell you: it works.

Red Bamboo was started by the son of the owner of Vegetarian Paradise just down the block (a restaurant that is the favorite of reggae singer Tony Rebel when he’s in town). Their menu is heavy on the mock meat, including many variations of mock fish dishes ranging from Cajun Fried Shrimp to Maryland Fried Scallops.

Before heading to Red Bamboo, I stopped by Moo Shoes, where I was given a very explicit recommendation: “Have the chicken parmesan. And, trust me, don’t skip dessert.”

The chicken parmesan lunch platter ($7.95) gives you a number of appetizer options. I went with the Jerk Spiced Seitan on a skewer. Very, very tasty with just enough spice to deliver a kick but avoid the runny-nose syndrome I get with ultra-spicy foods. The main course, though, was the piece de resistance.

Holy freaking crap.

Allow me to reiterate, slightly louder: HOLY FREAKING CRAP.

Perhaps one of the most “real” tasting mock meat dishes I’ve ever had, this chicken had the consistency and flavor of the best white meat chicken I’d ever eaten. The sauce was delicious and the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses (both vegan, though you can also get them in dairy and soy-cheese-with-casein versions… but trust me, you don’t need to) were melty and flavorful. I literally wimpered as I took the first bite. It was that good.

I had a cranberry-orange juice to drink, which was fine.

After I finished the main part of my meal, I was ready for dessert. After all, I was told not to skip it by the MooShoes girl. I had to order it, right? Unfortunately, their cakes had not yet arrived for the day, so I was stuck with the soy ice cream. But, it was really good soy ice cream. I had the mint chocolate chip—which was actually green!—and definitely hit the spot. The “one scoop” serving was actually closer to three scoops.

As I finished off my ice cream, the cakes were delivered. I started drooling even though my stomach was definitely full. So, I ordered a piece of Oreo Cheesecake (vegan, of course) to go and split it the following night with Huyen. Ain’t I nice?

The cheesecake was damn fine and right up there with the one I had from the Chicago Diner. Perfection.

As if you couldn’t guess, I highly recommend Red Bamboo. Next visit to New York, I’m going to go back and try out some of their fake fish. And another dessert, of course.

New York restaurants

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I’m going to be in the Big Apple next week for a few days. Can I tell you that I’m seriously excited? This is my first time in NY in four years, which is entirely too long between visits. While I’m pretty booked up for the trip and while I do have a pretty good idea of where I’d like to eat, can anyone suggest any veggie places in New York that I’ve got to try?

I may also have time for a small meetup, if anyone’s interested.

(As a side note, if you’re into reggae, you’ll definitely want to come to B.B. King’s on Monday the 15th. Or, if you’ve got some extra dough, the Nassau Coliseum on the 14th.)

How to Cook Those Brussels Sprouts

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Admit it: when was the last time you ate Brussels sprouts? I like the darn things (always have), but I still haven’t had them in the last four years that I can remember. But thanks to this San Francisco Chronicle article, I’m anxious to get back on the Brussels bandwagon.

“People have committed war crimes against Brussels sprouts, probably all of them on Thanksgiving Day” …

Worthy of prosecution: putting Brussels sprouts in an aluminum pot and “cooking them for three years,” says Downing. “You get the Black Sea effect.” The dark, disgusting water comes from sulfur compounds in the vegetable reacting with the metal. Not pretty.

So read up on how to slice ’em and shave ’em for sprouts the way you’ve never had them before.